Cardiff Blues were tonight crowned the Welsh champions of the Premiership Rugby 7s Series. James Brien takes a look back at the three games for Blues on the night.
Game One: Cardiff Blues 33 Ospreys 21
In a scintillating, back-and-forth tournament opener, Cardiff Blues overturned an early deficit to run out comfortable winners over the Ospreys.
A quick break following some smart handling allowed Ospreys no. 10 Steff Andrews to open the scoring after only 20 seconds played.
Ospreys again took the initiative from the resulting kick-off as Evan Yardley collected the high ball and rumbled his way to within inches of the try-line, with Ross Jones completing the formalities with the task looking tougher and tougher for the Blues.
A sin-binning for a late tackle by Ospreys no. 12 Joel Matavesi was a clear turning point in the game, as the Blues capitalised, Tomos Williams putting the points on the board after quick hands by Geraint Walsh created the opening.
Blues were back on level terms as a quick break took advantage of some uncharacteristically sloppy Ospreys defence. Owen Jenkins cruised over the try-line after a dynamic counter.
With the hosts now well and truly in the ascendancy, a sublime solo try from Dan Fish put the Blues in the lead for the first time.
The bonus point victory was secured minutes later, replacement Aled Summerhill stepping on the gas to round the Ospreys defence, Fish putting an exclamation mark on an impressive performance by the kicking the extras.
Just as it looked as though the Ospreys were beginning to find a foothold in the game, dogged defending and cool heads in the loose presented the opportunity for Ellis Wyn-Benham to extend the Blues’ lead to 33-14.
A consolation try from Ospreys back Rob Dudley-Jones did little to dampen fan’s spirit as Blues ran out worthy 33-21 winners.
Starting line-up: Richard Smith, Ben Roach, Garyn Smith, Owen Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Geraint Walsh, Dan Fish.
Game Two: Cardiff Blues 22 Scarlets 7
Excellent displays from both sets of defences made for a slow start to the fourth game of the evening, with the Dragons enjoying the lion’s share of territory early on.
It was the Blues who provided the initial spark; moving the ball through the phases until the gaps appeared. The impressive Dan Fish took full advantage of one such gap, powering through for his second try of the tournament.
In a madcap following few minutes, the Blues were thwarted by some excellent last-ditch defending as both Tom Williams and Richard Smith came within inches of getting on the score sheet.
With confidence building, the Blues started turning the screw. Having been denied moments earlier, Tom Williams burst down the left wing, bulldozing his way through two tackles to extend the Blues’ lead to 10-0.
With the game opening up, there was only one team looking like picking up the win. Scarlets hopes grew even dimmer as Ben Roach crashed the back home following a try from inside the five metre line.
With a second bonus point in as many games up for grabs, the hosts moved up a gear as legs grew tired and the game was stretched further.
After a flurry of smart passes, Richard Smith found himself all alone on the end of an inch perfect spiral to snatch that all important fourth try, Geraint Walsh tacking on the two extras for a 22-0 lead.
After a dominant display, concentration levels dipped as Scarlet Darran Harris ran through unchecked, putting the Llanelli side on the score sheet.
But it was too little, too late however, with the Blues cementing their position as the form side of the tournament.
Starting line-up: Richard Smith, Garyn Smith, Tom Williams, Tomos Williams, Geraint Walsh, Dan Fish Ben Roach
Game Three: Cardiff Blues 19 Newport Gwent Dragons 19
The top two teams meeting in the final game of the tournament made for a fitting end to an exciting evening of rugby.
After the Scarlets and Ospreys game before entertained with a 61-28 thriller, the opening stages of this game was a more considered and technical affair.
After a brief feeling-out period, it was the Blues who took the game by the scruff of the neck. Some patient build up leading to a cool finish from Ellis Wyn Benham.
With the Blues looking to keep their shape and capitalize on any mistakes, a moment of magic from the Dragons levelled the tie as Elliot Frewen latched on to an exquisite reverse pass. With the final kick of the half, Rhys Jones added the extras.
The second half picked up right where the first left off, some smart work from Newport resulting in Matthew Pewtner bursting through the defensive line to extend the Dragons’ lead.
Tensions flared as Dragons’ kicker Rhys Jones was sent to the bin, though the Blues could not take advantage, conceding another try as Oli Griffiths ran over for the Newport side.
At 5-19 with less than two minutes to go, the Blues’ hopes of winning the Welsh title on home soil looked to be slipping away.
But Tom Williams had other ideas as he put on the afterburners for an excellent solo effort. Fish squeezed the conversion over from a tight angle to set up a tense final minute at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
With the crowd in full voice, Blues pressed hard for an unlikely result. Sure enough, and with seconds to spare, a last-gasp penalty try converted by Fish drew the tie and crowned Cardiff Blues the Welsh champions of the Premiership Rugby 7s Series.
Starting line-up: Ellis Wyn Benham, Seb Davies, Richard Smith, Ben Roach, Owen Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Geraint Walsh